March 2021: A Note From Tony

Hello Prairie South Friends,

I hope you are well and looking forward to the most well deserved Easter break.

I met with the principals yesterday and spoke with them about the changing COVID reality in South Central, and wanted to follow up with some information for everyone.  As a school division, we had our 47th positive COVID case this morning.  We count every case where we do school level contact tracing in our case count, so there have been a few more than 47 actual cases where the student or staff member was not at school when contagious, like over the Christmas holidays.  Public Health is treating all current cases as possible Variant of Concern cases, which has led to many additional staff and students self-isolating in the past two weeks.

Our safety processes at school have been almost universally successful.  I know that masks and hand sanitizer and cleaning protocols and cohorting are becoming tedious, but we need to attend to those routines now more than ever, as these have prevented transmission in our buildings.  Please be mindful of your contact with staff colleagues; current contact tracing protocols require self-isolation for anyone who has been close to a positive case, and we don’t want to see a visit in the hallway or at lunch turn into a self-isolation situation over Easter.  We continue to face some criticism about our safety protocols, and we are committed to the premise that if you want to be in a Prairie South school, there is no room for debate on safety measures for all staff and students.  We are not planning to implement rapid testing in our schools at this time, however we have access to this resource if Public Health determines it is necessary.

We have had a couple of cases where substitute or casual staff have had to self-isolate because of a contact that happened on a day they were working.  While we have not had any instances of a person catching COVID because of a sub or casual day, we are trying to take care of those folks as their salary and benefits are different from those on regular contracts.  Currently we have 2 people who we have hired on a part-time basis while they are self-isolating so that they don’t experience a loss of income.  I’m very proud of the Board and CAC staff who show this level of commitment to all Prairie South staff.

Prairie South follows roughly the same boundaries as the South Central region used by the Ministry of Health to report COVID cases, which is nice for us as we have a fairly good idea of our situation as a school division.  There are two stories here:  The first is that the southern part of the school division yesterday had only 4 active cases.  The second – the geographically smaller northern part had 48.  This is consistent with our school numbers; most of our southern schools have not had a case yet while schools in and around Moose Jaw have managed multiple cases.   Currently we have classrooms self-isolating at 4 schools and one school in Moose Jaw at level 4 (Fully Remote Learning).  All other schools and classrooms are operating “normally”.  If you’re in the south, keep up the great work.  Continued focus on cleaning and safety at school will continue to keep you safe.  If you’re with me in the north, pay attention to your own health and the health of those around you.  We have a ton of unused testing capacity, so if you are uncertain, call 811 and schedule a test.  When we take care of ourselves, we are taking care of those around us.

Our students and their families have reaped the benefits of your commitment to teaching and learning over the past 7 months.  Our reading scores are improving after we lost some ground last spring after schools were closed.  In comparison with other school divisions, we have managed to keep schools operating for the most part.  Every family in Prairie South owes each of you a debt of gratitude for the work you are doing.

We will continue to work hard to make sure we all stay safe so that we can enjoy an Easter break and get outside with close family and friends as allowed by the Public Health Order.

I’m looking forward to a day when I can write about something other than COVID!  Please take care of yourselves.

Tony

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